There’s a tremendous amount of materials development taking place now to protect and improve the performance of the modern solider. One of the materials being actively investigated isn’t new at all, however. It’s wool—the same material used by the Army of the Potomac in the 1860s. The Marine Corps temporarily banned the wearing of synthetic materials by combat troops after soldiers sustained serious burns from clothing that burned, and sometimes melted, fusing to skin. Short-term, soldiers shifted to all-aramid clothing, an expensive and uncomfortable solution. The Army Soldier Systems Center has been developing a family of woolen, flame-resistant woven and knitted fabrics to replace polyester and nylon. The American Sheep Industry Association and the American Wool Council developed two knit fabrics and one woven fabric that are flame retardant. The US Army is current considering a fabric that is a blend of 50 percent wool and 50 percent Nomex, a meta-aramid made by DuPont. Wool improves the comfort and reduces the cost. TenCate Southern Mills received a million dollar order from the US Army to provide Lenzing FR rayon, for the Defender M program in which a fabric with a camouflage print made from Lenzing FR and para-aramid or polyamide. Lenzing FR may also be paired with wool in another program under evaluation.
Norway-based additive manufacturing company Norsk Titanium is building what it says is the first industrial-scale 3D printing plant in the world for making aerospace-grade metal components. The New York state plant will produce 400 metric tons each year of aerospace-grade, structural titanium parts.
Siemens and Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology have achieved a faster production process based on selective laser melting for speeding up the prototyping of big, complex metal parts in gas turbine engines.
BMW has already incorporated more than 10,000 3D-printed parts in the Rolls-Royce Phantom and intends to expand the use of 3D printing in its cars even more in the future. Meanwhile, Daimler has started using additive manufacturing for producing spare parts in Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
SABIC's lightweighting polycarbonate glazing materials have appeared for the first time in a production car: the rear quarter window of Toyota's special edition 86 GRMN sports car, where they're saving 50% of its weight compared to conventional glass.
Design engineers play a big role in selecting both suppliers and materials for their designs. Our most recent Design News Materials Survey says they continue to be highly involved, in some ways even more than the last time we asked to peek inside their cubicles.
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